So far in our series on how to help your prospect sell internally, we've covered three steps in the process:
- The purchase cycle – Where is the organisation in the buying process? How close is the prospect organisation to a purchase decision? What steps do they still need to go through? At what stage are you entering their process?
- The buying team – Who are the three types of people involved? What roles do they play in contributing to the purchasing process? What are their motivations and what kind of information do they need?
- Defining objectives – What action(s) do you want the various members of your prospect's buying team to take?
Now that you've built this platform of knowledge and have a clear sense of purpose (why you’re doing what you’re doing!), you can work on developing your sales strategy and tactics, which must consider three key factors
- Size and complexity
This relates not only to the size and complexity of your product or service proposition but also to that of the purchasing organisation. The greater the size and complexity of either, the more you'll be working through a series of developmental sales calls, which we discussed in our last post on defining objectives.
How much change will your product or service require from the organisation? And what is the organisation’s tolerance for change? Does the organisation and buying team perceive (widely/deeply) that they're getting a poor result from their current course of action or do they think that their existing situation is good or good enough? If its tending toward the latter then there will be limited motivation to act on a solution and bear the pain involved (time, cost, etc), no matter how compelling it may be.
What's your relationship and that of your prospect/champion with the various members of the buying team? How might you/they be able to leverage a preexisting relationship to aid your cause? And what's your relationship to where the organisation is in the purchasing cycle? The earlier you enter the process, the more strength you'll have.
Of these three elements, the organisation's tolerance for change is the most important factor in determining how quickly it will move through the purchasing cycle. That's why salespeople must be change agents; you/we are in the business of inducing people to change. For much more on the mindsets of change, the motivations of change and how to implement change, see our page on how to manage organisational change.
As we stated in our first post in this series, you always want to try and communicate directly with the purchasing authority, no matter what stage of the process you're in. But since reality often dictates otherwise, you must be prepared to work through your primary contact who becomes your champion for selling internally on their own.
Dealing with this task can be challenging. First most competitors, other than an incumbent, will be in the same situation and facing an equal disadvantage. This is one reason why it is so advantageous to get into an organisation’s purchasing cycle as early as possible, particularly if you can work with them to surface a problem, and then help them define and solve it. And second, you can actually apply many of the same principles and processes that you would use in a normal sales situation – and that's much of what we've covered in this series. So no matter what the situation, stick with this proven framework and you'll find that your chances of success will be significantly enhanced!
In order for salespeople to help their prospect sell internally, they must understand the sales environment. Therefore, in the last two posts of this series we've covered two key components that define environment: (1) where the prospect is in the purchase cycle and (2) who is on the prospect's buying team. With a full appreciation of these, you'll be better positioned to develop the most creative and effective sales strategy.
But before jumping right into forming a sales strategy for your prospect to execute, there's a critical step that must come first: defining objectives. All sales calls or presentations begin in the mind of the salesperson with a clear one sentence statement of purpose. A sales strategy without objectives is useless, so skipping this step – a common temptation for many – is a colossal error.
Before you initiate any sales process, regardless of whether you have direct access to the buying team, ask yourself: What's my purpose? By identifying one, it forces you to think about your environment, drawing upon the knowledge outlined in the previous two posts, and what you need to do to transfer your belief in your solution throughout the rest of the target organisation.
In general, there are two types of sales calls, and a salesperson's objective will differ greatly depending on which one they're entering.
- Transactional sales calls
These are calls in which you expect a sale to take place at that time. They're going to be mostly simple sales that don't require a large investment of time or resources on the prospect's behalf.
- Developmental sales calls
These are the sales calls we engage in most of the time as a part of the overall sales process, those for which you anticipate you'll need to put in a significant amount of effort, working with many people over a long period of time. They require that you take a multipronged approach and lead, coach and counsel the prospect throughout the entire purchasing process.
When you're faced with the challenge we're addressing in this series of helping your champion sell internally, you're clearly dealing with a more complex sale that requires multiple developmental sales calls. Because of that, you should begin the process by defining not just one objective with a simple endpoint, but a cascading series of objectives, starting with a broad, overarching one and becoming more and more focused on immediate goals.
These objectives can be broken into four levels. For each, we've provided a generic example of what the actual objective might be:
- Overall objective: What's your ideal end result?
For example: Prospect organisation makes long-term commitment to your product or service.
- Intermediate objective: What will help you fulfill your overall objective?
For example: Prospect trials your product or service by investing in one part of it.
- Short-range objective: What will help you fulfill your intermediate objective?
For example: Your contact (within the prospect organisation) presents the case for trialing one part of the product or service to the buying team.
- Immediate objective: What will help you fulfill your short-range objective?
For example: Your contact arranges a meeting with the buying team.
As you consider each of these levels of objectives, it's crucial that you couch them in regards to the actions that the prospect must take. Too many salespeople concentrate on inputs, thereby framing objectives around what action they're going to do. But the purpose of a sales call isn't your activities. Instead, it's about getting the prospect to take desired actions that lead to a result.
What's your purpose? Regardless of whether you're entering a transactional or developmental sales call, you'll need to devise an effective sales strategy and tactics. And what makes for good strategy development? We will cover this next time, in our last post of this series.